Conquest of Tunis, 1535

A.) Prehistory of the Expedition

In 1510, a band of Turkish pirates, lead by Hayraddin, known to the Europeans as Barbarossa (Redbeard), made Tunis their basis, with the permission if Bey Mulay Muhammad. The pirates also gained control over other cities on the North African coast, amongst them Algiers. From there they undertook raids against christian ships and coastal settlements; abducted christians were sold as slaves on the markets of North Africa, or held for ransom. Barbarossa ousted Mulay Muhammad's successor, Mulay Hassan, and assumed the title of Bey of Tunis for himself (1534). Since 1531, Tunis was a vassall of the Ottoman Empire.

B.) The Expedition

The ousted Bey of Tunis, Mulay Hassan, plead to Emperor Charles V. who agreed to equip an expedition against Tunis, not only to restore Mulay Hassan to the throne, but also to curb the piracy undertaken from there. A fleet consistying of 62 galleys and 150 other vessels left Barcelona March 29th. The Imperial & Spanish troops, commanded by Genoese Andrea Doria, supported by the Maltese Knights, landed near Carthago, took Tunis and Goletta. Tunis was taken July 21st 1535. Mulay Hassan was restored, c. 20,000 christian slaves liberated. The Spanish garrisoned Tunis and Goletta. Mulay Hassan ruled Tunis as a Spanish vassall, had to agree to end christian slavery and to introduce religious toleration. The expedition also took Bone and Biserta, both of which were garrisoned by the Spanish.
The Portuguese navy participated in the expedition.

C.) The Legacy

Bone was lost in 1540.
The policy he was forced to implement resulted in Mulay Hassan's unpopularity. In 1543 he was overthrown by his son, Mulay Ahmad. In 1570 Tunis was conquered by the Ottoman Empire; in 1573 Don Juan d'Austria reconquered it. He was recalled by his half-brother, Philip II., King of Spain, and in 1574 the Ottoman troops, when taking Tunis, encountered no resistance.
Except for Ceuta, Melilla, Oran the Spanish hold to ports in North Africa was temporary. Piracy from the "Barbary Coast" was not effectively brought under control until into the 19th century.

Article Tunis, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Batalhas e Combates da Marinha Portuguesa (Battles and Combats of the Portuguese Marine), 1415-1579 from ANC, in Portuguese
Mulay Hassan, from Arabische Cultuur en Ottomaanse Pracht (Arabian Culture and Ottoman Splendour), in Dutch
Expedition against Tunis, p.69, from Habsburg and Valois, by Stanley Leathes
Philip II. and Foreign Policy, from History Learning Site
Conquista di Tunisi ad opera di Andrea Doria, from Celti, Longobardi ed altri brandelli di storia Padana, in Italian MBR>
DOCUMENTS Painting : the Bey of Tunis pleas to Emperor Charles V. for military assistance against Heyraddin (Barbarossa), 1535; by Theodor Hosemann, printed 1845; posted by AKG
Flag of the Spanish Infantry in the Conquest of Tunis 1535, from FOTW
Regnal Chronologies : North Africa, scroll down for Tunis
The Navy of the Order, from Knights of Malta
Image : Tunis and la Goletta 1582, Tunis : Old la Goletta, c 1540, Tunis : New la Goletta, 1572, Conquest of Tunis 1535, Conquest of Tunis 1535, from Mappe di Citta' ed altre mappe antiche diverse, comment in Italian
REFERENCE Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal, A Political History of al-Andalus, Harlow : Pearson 1996, 342 pp.; KMLA Lib.Sign. 946.02 K35m
Leopold von Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (German History in the Era of Reformation), (1839-1847), Emil Vollmer Verlag, reprint, n.d., Pt.2, pp.150-155, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 6th 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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